Consciousness isn’t all-or-none: Evidence for partial awareness during the attentional blink

Alternative views of the nature of consciousness posit that awareness of an object is either an all-or-none phenomenon or that awareness can be partial, occurring independently for different levels of representation. The all-or-none hypothesis predicts that when one feature of an object is identified, all other features should be consciously accessible. The partial awareness hypothesis predicts that one feature may reach consciousness while others do not. These competing predictions were tested in two experiments that presented two targets within a central stream of letters. We used the attentional blink evoked by the first target to assess consciousness for two different features of the second target. The results provide evidence that there can be a severe impairment in conscious access to one feature even when another feature is accurately reported. This behavioral evidence supports the partial awareness hypothesis, showing that consciousness of different features of the same object can be dissociated.

Elliott, J. C., Baird, B., and Giesbrecht, B.
Consciousness and Cognition
Volume: 40
Pages: 79-85
Date: February, 2016
ICB Affiliated Authors: Barry Giesbrecht